There was once a time when kids could buy cigarettes for their parents, you could arrive at the airport 15 minutes before your flight and still make it onboard, and children would ride in the backseat of cars without seat belts. This probably sounds ridiculous to those of us who have come of age in a world of the TSA and anti-smoking PSAs, but even today, we have our own things that are normal today but will probably seem weird in 100 years. That was the exact topic of conversation in a recent AskReddit conversation, where more than one person expressed just how baffled they are that we wipe our backsides with dry pieces of paper. You probably never really thought about how that might be strange. I bet you're thinking about it now, though — and I bet your great-grandkids will think it's even stranger.
I can certainly think of things from my childhood that wouldn't fly today — like hanging out with the neighborhood kids at night without any adults present, celebrating religious holidays in class at public school, and playing with various violent toys. In fact, I'm pretty sure some of these things could get you arrested today.
Think about it. What things are commonplace today that could seem totally, completely, 100 percent wrong a century from now? Here's what some of the people of AskReddit had to say about it.
Think about it: Tanning beds are literally toasters for humans. We actually cook inside of them. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, repeated exposure to UV radiation can lead to early skin aging (like wrinkles, brown spots, and loose skin), in addition to skin cancer. In fact, first using a tanning bed before the age of 35 increases your risk of melanoma by 75 percent. The dangers of tanning beds are well-documented, and yet many of us hop into them and roast our skin anyway. Maybe future generations will slather on the SPF and embrace their paleness.
2The American Prison System
Per capita, the United States locks up more people than any other nation. We have 2.3 million people confined in correctional facilities. One of five is there for nonviolent drug convictions. Most incarcerated youth are there for nonviolent offenses. The really disturbing part of this is that many children are incarcerated for acts that aren't even crimes — such as "technical violations" of probation. Another 600 are jailed for "status" offenses, like running away, truancy, and incorrigibility.
This makes us quite different from nations like the UK, Sweden, and Switzerland, who have far fewer people in prison. What are we doing differently? Is the problem our people or the system? Michael Semanchik, staff attorney at the California Innocence Project, makes a strong point about this issue: Sentencing laws are the root of the problem. For example, as recently as 1995, California could sentence a person 25 years to life for stealing a $100 leaf blower. Odds are high that these kinds of rules will shock future Americans.
3Trying To Keep Elderly People Alive As Long As Possible
It's only natural to want to keep the people you love around as long as humanly possible. But the problem comes in when we try to do this even to people who are sick and in pain — and may even have expressed that they want to pass on. Watching an elderly loved one become sick and pass on is a traumatic experience for all involved — too traumatic to put into words; but relying on aggressive measures to keep elderly people who are very sick and have no hope of full recovery alive is becoming a growing problem as life expectancy increases.
In a CBS News article on life support, they note that hospital beds are filling up more and more with elderly patients who stand zero chance at recovering. By law, doctors must do whatever they can to keep a patient alive, unless that patient has made clear they don't want treatment. But what about patients too sick to speak for themselves? Will the legal systems be different 100 years from now, allowing people to pass when their bodies determine it's time?
4The Fact That Human Beings Drive Cars
Self-driving cars are actually a thing now — enough of a thing that the people of AskReddit ponder whether human-driven cars will be obsolete within the next century. Giants like Google and Uber have been working on self-driving cars for years, engaged in a race to become the first to standardize it. One might wonder how a car could ever drive itself — how it could ever practice defensive driving like humans do, and be aware of potential dangers that haven't struck yet but very likely could? Then again, we've taught computers to do some crazy things, so maybe human drivers won't be needed in 100 years after all.
5Spending Hours At A Desk
Human beings weren't meant to sit all day. Sitting can have serious consequences for your health, even if you remain active outside of work — it slows down the oxygen and blood flowing through your body, and has been named the fourth-leading risk factor for death. Regardless, many of us spend eight hours or more sitting at our desk, hunched over and typing on the computer, squinting at the screen; this is our norm.
Because we now know how bad desks are, culture may change to help us live healthier (and more desk-free) lives. If we could spend the next 100 years normalizing standing desks, spending more time outdoors, and devoting extra hours to running, jumping, and moving more in general, that would be great. Kthanks.
The ASPCA defines a puppy mill as a "large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs." In other words, people will breed and breed and breed all in the name of the almighty dollar, with complete disregard for the innocent, vulnerable, defenseless, and voiceless lives they're affecting.
The Puppy Mill Project estimates that there are 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, both licensed and unlicensed. More than two million puppies are bred in mills each year. This story doesn't have a happy ending, because puppy mills are one of the reasons 1.2 million dogs are euthanized in shelters every single year.
100 years from now, we can only hope that the legal system will have found the solution to puppy mill breeders. We can all help by being responsible when it comes to where we get our pets from. (First, adopt, don't shop! Second, if you encounter a puppy mill, report them immediately.)
Cyber bullying is very real and very scary. Unfortunately, our answer is often to encourage parents to raise children with thicker skin, as opposed to urging them to raise children who know that bullying is unacceptable.
Nobullying.com, "the world's authority on bullying," presents some startling statistics on cyber bullying: 25 percent of teenagers have experienced it, while 11 percent report that damaging photographs have been taken of them without their consent. One third of young people who have reported cyber bullying said that threats were involved. Most teens who witness it ignore the behavior, and half of the teens who experience it will never tell their parents. This all matters because victims of cyber bulling are likelier to consider suicide.
Is it going to take us another 100 years to realize the power of our words? I hope it doesn't take that long; but hopefully future generations will be better than we are at practicing kindness and compassion — even online.